This article is from the Summer 2003 AFRMA Rat & Mouse Tales news-magazine.
Our Pets & Friends
By Jacqueline Freeman
While buying cat food at the pet store, my never-a-dull-moment husband showed up next to me in the checkout line with a small squeaky cardboard box. When I asked about the box, he told me he “rescued” two feeder mice, the kind raised for snake food. Peering into the box he whispered more to the mice than me, “No snakes will ever eat these mice.”
Once home, Joseph decided the mice would homestead in an old aquarium. We mounded paper pellets in the tank and watched their “mouse nature” unfold.
Mice are unbelievably industrious and curious. About everything. Nervous, too. I stuck a hunk of wool in their home thinking they’d nest in it. They skirted it for an hour, never touching it, studying and staring. No, it hadn’t been there earlier. Yes, it appeared to be here now. They were sure it’d dropped from outer space. Engrossed studying it, standing stock still, their tiny brains would hit overload and they’d suddenly pop straight into the air, boink-boink-boink. Hours later, assured the wool wasn’t alive, they dragged it under a tiny upside-down basket, snuggled in and fell asleep.
Joseph decided the aquarium was too boring for these brainy little guys, so he built a bigger, better cage the following week. How could a mouse cage take a week to build? I mean, it’s four Plexiglas walls with a screen on top, right? Not overly complex to me. I must have forgotten that the man I married doesn’t think small, he thinks really, really big. When the mouse-house was finished, it took both Joseph and the neighbor to carry it across the yard and into our living room.
It’s Disneyland for mice. It’s the size of our kitchen table and nearly three feet tall. These mice, you’ll remember, came home in an animal cracker box and they seemed quite happy in the ten gallon aquarium, so I wasn’t expecting a mouse-house the size of a crate you’d ship a German Shepherd in. But size alone doesn’t make a cool mouse-house. Joseph built toys for the mice. A two-tiered Plexiglas shelf with a food dish on top and no direct entry. Rather, he made challenging ways to get to the food—tiny string tightropes tightly stretched end-to-end, a hanging knotted rope bolted from the cage roof. The mice studied the ropes for 20 minutes. They stood on hind legs sniffing corn and grain up top. Then, by trial and error, they climbed the knot and leaped onto the second floor to eat, or took a running start and raced across the swinging tightropes to get there. They loved it. There are also stairways made from egg cartons with the scoopy little egg-hollows as lumpy stairs, intertwined plastic tube tunnels, even a viewing platform up top so they can haughtily survey the living room.
I cannot begin to tell you how incredibly fascinating this is for our cats. The mice are safe! Joseph put 16 one-by-two inch bars under the steel mesh reinforcing the top of the cage, fully expecting multiple cats to sit atop it. It’s strong enough to hold a 50-pound child. Our cats hover on the sides of the cage like cat-vulture bookends, bapping the glass as the mice totally ignore them. Our cats even sleep near the cage. I hear them delightedly whispering, “Mice in our home! We’ll never leave this paradise!” Our cats have always slept in bed with us, but the first mouse night found no cats on our bed. Finally at 2 A.M., we, too, got up from bed and sat with the cats in the living room under the glow of moonlight, watching little mousies zipping and zapping beneath the purring, bapping cats atop their cage. And how does this affect the mice? Standing on their hind paws, they analytically sniff-sniff-sniff all cat hair that appears through the mesh roof holes. Never having known cats, the mice seem completely unfazed by them. On the other hand, one curious mouse did manage to goose a cat asleep on his roof, his teeny pointed nose sharply poking her furred belly as she slept. I’m sure you’ve seen cats, even from a dead sleep, fall and land on their feet. I’m happy to report that sleeping cats, when startled straight up, also land on their feet. Our girl cat landed wide-eyed, then stared straight down into the mouse’s eyes. I swear the mouse had a smile on his face. Could there be any mouse-task more Olympian than goosing a cat? Happy mice, guarded by cats, not eaten by snakes.
Jacqueline and her husband both work from home at their lovely farmhouse in the Cascade Mountains. They’re surrounded outside by 10,000 wild mice, moles, and voles who the cats now have no interest in since mice moved into their home.
This story was originally published on the Petwarmers web site.